It was 23 November, 2008 when Odisha won their last Ranji Trophy match against Punjab before Tuesday's six-wicket win over Haryana in Lahli. That outright victory has given Odisha a new lease of life and confidence to their 2012-13 season campaign.
It's hard to believe that it took Odisha – who were called Orissa when they last claimed victory four years ago – so long to break their jinx. In both these wins there are lot of common factors - Debasish Mohanty, who was a player back, then is now the coach. Basant Mohanty, who shared the new ball with Debasish in the win over Punjab, is now the spearhead of the attack and the architect of both the wins.
The right-arm fast bowler was the stand-out player with nine wickets in both victories. In 2008, Basant claimed 7 for 27 in the first innings to bundle out Punjab for 60 and this season he had 5 for 24 to skittle Haryana for 66. Last season, Odisha looked out of sorts and failed to move beyond the league stage, but this win against a better team has given them reason to think big.
Speaking to Cricketnext, the former India bowler and current coach of the Odisha team, Debasish Mohanty, said he believes this win can turn the tide for his team. "It's too early to say and in every match we take the field to win. But definitely this win against Haryana at their own backyard will give us confidence for the upcoming matches."
Moreover, he was all praise for Basant's exploits with the ball and said that the medium-pacer was now an improved and intelligent bowler. "Being the spearhead of Odisha's bowling for the last couple of years he is doing the job well and importantly picked up variations and bowling in the right areas."
Basant, the backbone of the team was modest about his role in Odisha's win and was determined to see his side qualify for the knockout stage this season. "I'm pleased with my performance more because of the five-wicket haul which I claimed after almost two years. Earlier, we used to focus on retaining our place at the elite level, but this year we are a young side and will try to make into the knockout stage."
Asked about where he rates this bowling spell against Haryana, Basant said: "Every season I look to end on the top of the bowling charts, but I fall short of five-six wickets. Moreover, I have bowled alongside Deba bhai [Debasish] for five years and it's my turn to take up the mantle and inspire other pacers in the team like Alok Mangaraj and Deepak Behera."
Like any other cricketer, Basant also wants to improve in some areas and pick up new skills to strengthen his bowling. "I've done the right preparation but want to improve more on my fitness to bowl longer spells, since I don't look for pace and believe in pitching in the right areas," he said.
Now that they have ended the four-year drought of wins with the trend in the Ranji Trophy tilting towards lesser-known teams in the last couple of years. Odisha could spring a few surprises.